A restaurant anchor in a busy West End shopping center has closed its doors after 18 months in business.
The owners of Family Meal have closed the brand’s lone Richmond location in the Shops at Willow Lawn, according to Hilda Staples, a well-known restaurateur that partnered with famed “Top Chef” contender Bryan Voltaggio to open the eatery.
“We love Richmond, and we have other dealings in Richmond,” Staples said while loading up the last of Family Meal’s chairs, alcohol and equipment into a U-Haul in front of the shuttered eatery late Thursday afternoon. “It just didn’t work out.”
Staples and Voltaggio opened their 4,000-square-foot Willow Lawn location in March 2015 after establishing its first Virginia Family Meal in Ashburn in February 2015 – investing close to $1.6 million in the restaurant.
“Everyone has been wonderful, our loyal customers were wonderful,” Staples said. “There just simply wasn’t enough of them.”
The first Family Meal was opened in Frederick, Maryland, in 2012, with a second location added in Baltimore shortly after. The pair also opened restaurants in Washington, D.C., and metro Baltimore.
Voltaggio has appeared on Bravo’s “Top Chef” cooking competition show. In 2009, he placed second after his brother Michael, and in 2013 he was runner-up on the fifth season of Top Chef Masters.
Staples is well-connected to Richmond’s dining scene, as well as Voltaggio’s other restaurant concepts. She owns a stake in Graffiato at 123 W. Broad St. Her husband, Jonathan, is a co-owner of James River Distillery, and he’s involved with GWARbar in Jackson Ward.
Deirdre Johnson, of Willow Lawn owner Federal Realty Investment Trust, said the company was shocked by the news of Family Meal leaving the shopping center. She said the company received notice from Family Meal about its pending closure Wednesday.
“We’re disappointed and really sad because we thought the combination of food and family couldn’t be beat,” Johnson said. “We think the world of Bryan, and we’re going to miss him.”
Johnson said it’s too early to determine what tenant would fill the space, but given the shop’s location, retail tenants and traffic counts along West Broad Street, she said the space would not be vacant for long.
“We are working on bringing some new stores to Willow Lawn,” Johnson said. “but no leases have been signed.”
Despite Family Meal’s closure, which was first reported by the Times-Dispatch, Willow Lawn continues to attract new tenants.
Pie Five Pizza Company, a Texas-based national pizza chain that is growing throughout metro Richmond, plans to open its Willow Lawn location the first week of September.
Ohio-based DSW, a footwear retailer, also recently opened in the retail center.